Kent Hansen, an attorney in California with an interest in religious liberty, takes time from his practice to send out a weekly inspirational newsletter: “A Word of Grace for your Monday.” What he communicates never fails to connect with my mind and heart on a deep level. With his permission, I’m sharing below what he shared this week.
If you wish to receive Kent Hansen’s weekly meditation, send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the word “subscribe.”
~Martin Weber, OUTLOOK editor
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn (Luke 2:7)
What if Jesus had been born in a luxurious palace surrounded by attendants and guards? What if he had been born in a fortress protected by an army? Would Jesus’ power to save his people from their sins be enhanced or diminished?
Our salvation depended on Jesus’ faithfulness and the glory of the Father, but would we be as likely to accept Him as Savior and Lord, or would we busy ourselves seeking for wealth and building stronger fortresses for our security? It doesn’t take much to tempt us to do that anyway.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “Whosoever” is an all-inclusive term. Would those eking out an existence in the mean streets outside the palace or facing the terrors of life without sheltering walls really believe that an aristocrat or colonel would be their Savior?
Would those who find that there never seems to be room for them in the inn think that someone who stays in the royal suite would care about what happened to them?
Would someone knocked flat on her back and rendered helpless by the random body blows and malicious kicks of a world dominated by tooth and claw ever believe that a scion cosseted in wealth could know and feel her pain? Would those blasted by a madness whose only method is a vicious selfishness accept that anyone would give his life to save their’s?
The stable was really nothing more than a hole in the hillside. It was rude and no doubt pungent. There is nothing alive that is more helpless than a human infant.
The Father placed his only begotten Son in the shadows and muck at the bottom because from there all of us are covered with his saving grace. The “whosoever” of John 3:16 became an all encompassing reality with that beginning. No one was left out.
It is in our lowest, darkest moments that we feel the most distance between God and us. Jesus is called Emmanuel, “God is with us” (Matt 1:23). The Father placed his Son in that stable in a helpless human state to prove that there is no time or condition in which God will not identify with us and no circumstance in which he will deny us his presence and salvation.
We have hope precisely because there was no room for him in the inn and his bed was a manger. Shepherds and kings could focus and worship Jesus in such a place with a simple devotion not probable in the fuss and pageantry of a palace, fortress, or crowded commercial lodging.
The story with God is always the love. No one of us ever reached adulthood on our own. A newborn infant cannot feed, clothe, or protect itself. In God’s plan, adults, most often parents, are responsible for seeing to the needs of the child. The respect of the growing child for the parents is the secret of a long and gracious life. The Lord embedded this truth in his commandments: “Honor your father and mother so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Ex 20:12).
The responsibilities that come with caring for a child are a primary method that the Lord uses to teach us to unselfishly love our neighbor. Mary and Joseph set aside their own plans and pre-conceived ideas to love and nurture the Christ-child. He grew in mind, body and grace because they put his needs above their own.
One of my clients is the largest children’s hospital in California. In its child abuse prevention and treatment programs can be seen the unspeakably horrible consequences of abandoning God’s intentions for unselfish love for those dependent on us for mercy. At the core of all child abuse is an evil selfishness that places the abuser’s damaged and damaging emotional needs first.
This is an inescapable conclusion when one watches a methyl-amphetamine or crack-cocaine addicted newborn go through withdrawal or sees a child seizing up with eyes filled with blood and a brain bruised and swollen and leaking fluid in a little head that has been shaken in rage simply because it was crying out to be fed or changed.You have not begun to plumb the depths of disgust until you hear a mother try to justify the sexual abuse of a child because she needed the relationship of a father or boyfriend.
The Apostle Paul prophesied that it would be so in the last days.”You must understand this, that in the last days distressing times will come. For people will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, brutes, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the outward form of godliness, but denying its power.” (2 Tim 3:1-4).
To be victimized by such attitudes and actions from ones who should love you most on this earth can twist or erase thought of God. I’ve never faced a more difficult and emotional task than seeking to persuade a victim of abuse that God is good and loves him or her. Child abuse and domestic violence cause cracks in the soul where the shadows of evil hold an icy chill long after the initial injury was inflicted. As Jesus said about the healing of a child seizing up in the grip of demonic evil beyond the abilities of his own anguished father, “This kind can come out only through prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).
It is an intellectual conceit that the kind of poverty that would lead to a human birth in a stable or exclusion from lodging in the inn explains abuse. The love of God expressed in the tender care of Mary and Joseph show us that this need not be so.
To love as God loves us is a choice of mind and heart that is not dictated by the circumstances. Men and women wise in the ways of God can honor him in a stable just as well as in a cathedral. Our calling is to love and care for the children of God where we find them, not to wait for them to get to where we think they should be.
The humble nativity of Christ is a gift of our all-wise God that we can know that he is always with us in love. Mary and Joseph burnished that gift to a shining human reality by putting Jesus first. The way is open for us to follow from the manger to the cross to the true and eternal life beyond.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good. Happy are those who take refuge in him” (Ps 34:8).
Under the mercy of Christ,